Going Up? How Sales Negotiators Deal With Escalation

by drjim on June 17, 2011

Sales Negotiators Need To Know How To Ride An Escalation

Sales Negotiators Need To Know How To Ride An Escalation

Just when you think that you’ve got everything nailed down in a sales negotiation, you just might run into the issue of escalating authority. Sure you’ve reached a deal with the other side of the table, but then all of a sudden somebody else gets involved and it turns out that they don’t like your deal. What’s a sales negotiator to do?

What Is Escalating Authority?

The escalating authority tactic is a sneaky one – often you don’t see it coming until it’s too late. The way that it works is actually pretty simple. You sit down with the other side of the table and you work to hash out a deal. In the end, you both finally come up with a deal that you believe that both of you can live with.

Emotionally you believe that you are just about done with this sale and you start to think about all of the other things that you need to start to work on. That’s when you get surprised. What happens is that the other side of the table comes back to you and says that there’s a problem.

What he says is that there are other people in his organization who have to approve the deal that the two of you have created. He’ll tell you that somebody is unwilling to approve the deal as it currently stands. They want more concessions from you in order for them to sign it.

You might be saying to yourself “I’d never give in and agree to more concessions.” Well, it turns out that a lot of us actually do give in and do end up making more concessions – that’s why this technique is so effective.

How Can You Make Escalating Authority Work For You?

We all think the same thing when we bump into a powerful new negotiating technique: how can I make this thing work for me? If you are going to want to harness this powerful tool, then you’re going to have to understand why it works.

The main driver behind this technique is that the other side of the table already has a significant investment in making the deal happen. The escalation to authority is based on the other side being willing to do more in order to achieve what they think is already almost theirs.

When they encounter the escalating authority tactic, the other side believes that they have only two choices. The first is to make a concession and allow the deal to happen. The other is to refuse to make a concession and be willing to sit down and start the negotiating process all over again.

How Can You Defend Against Escalating Authority?

If there’s a powerful negotiating tactic out there, then you know that someday it’s going to be used against you. When this happens, and it will, you’ll need to know what to do in order to counteract its powerful force.

Right off the bat, you’ve got the most powerful countermeasure available to you: leave. Get up and walk out the door. If you do this, then all of the power associated with the escalating authority tactic instantly vanishes.

When this tactic starts to be used against you, you need to immediately inform the rest of your company what is going on. Your purpose for doing this is pretty simple: you want them to get used to the idea of waiting – no deal is going to be struck anytime soon.

One final countermeasure is to just wait. Just as you have a large investment in making a deal happen, so too does the other side of the table. This means that if you just put a stop to everything, they’ll soon start to feel as though the deal that was almost theirs is starting to slip away. This may force them to drop their request for more concessions.

What All Of This Means For You

In the end, the use of escalating authority should be viewed simply as being yet another negotiating tactic that we all have available to us. As with all such tactics the key is to understand when it should be used.

When you’ve gotten the other side to commit to a doing a deal, but you think that you can still get some more concessions out of them, the escalation tactic can be a good tool to use. However, if someone starts to use it against you, then you’ll need to inform the rest of your company so that they will support you as you deal with it.

Anytime other people get involved in a negotiation in which a deal has already been reached an element of danger is introduced. The deal that seemed to be so close, may now look farther away. Careful how you use escalating authority – just make sure that the gains that you’re looking for are worth the risk that you’ll be introducing.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: Under what circumstances do you think it’s worth the risk to use the escalating authority tactic?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

What’s your most valuable resource? You might have said money, but I’m willing to bet that it’s really something else – time. You can always earn more money, but once you spend time on some task, it’s gone, gone, gone. That’s why when you are negotiating with someone it is critical that you quickly get an answer to the most important question: how much authority do they really have?

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